The Days Are Getting Colder – But Also Longer

by Tom Ross

December started off with a bang as a southern storm that originated in the Southwest was able to spread a swath of snow from south Texas up across the Appalachians and drop 9 to 12 inches of snow across our region. The final month of the year also featured a couple of cold snaps as well as quite a bit of volatility in temperatures from day to day.

The preliminary data for 2017 shows that temperatures again averaged above normal most of the year, with the average monthly temperature for the year about 2.6 degrees above the normal of 55.5. The warmer-than-average months were the ones that were usually the coldest: January and February, which averaged about 7 degrees above normal. In contrast, August was slightly below normal and maybe December, as well. We also had five days with high temperatures at or above 90 degrees, which is about four days below the long-term average of nine days. In the Fairview area, most places received over 60 inches of precipitation this year and the wettest locations closest to the escarpment in the eastern part of the county are approaching 70 inches as of year’s end. In contrast, last year we had 40 inches with brown lawns and drought conditions.

Here are a couple of fine quotes about January or winter to ponder as we start 2018.

“The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer. Minute by minute they lengthen out. It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change. It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour.” —Vita Sackville-West

“There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you. In spring, summer and fall, people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.” ­—Ruth Stout

“There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter. One is the January thaw. The other is the seed catalogues.” ­­—Hal Borland

Meteorologist Tom Ross managed the Climate Database Modernization Program at the National Climatic Data Center.

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